Best of C-VILLE 2019: Health & Fitness

Saunders-Monticello Trail offers a nice stroll through the woods to and from Thomas Jefferson’s home. Photo: Skyclad Aerial Saunders-Monticello Trail offers a nice stroll through the woods to and from Thomas Jefferson’s home. Photo: Skyclad Aerial

From cool kids’ parks to kick-ass fitness studios.

Kids’ park

Pen Park

Runner-up: Greenleaf Park

Honorable mention: IX Art Park

Kids love big stuff. Big chocolate bunnies, gifts that come in big boxes, big soap bubbles, and whether they know it or not, big parks. At 282 acres, Pen Park is not only the city’s largest but also the one with the most amenities. Do the kids care about the golf or fitness courses? Nah. But they (and their parents, natch) really dig the baseball batting cage, volleyball courts, sprawling playground, designated play areas for the 5- and-under set, and plenty of open space and trails for romping and running. • Like a beach ball kicked by a 4-year-old, IX Art Park rolls into the runner-up spot.

Summer camp

Triple C Camp

Runner-up: ACAC Adventure Central

Honorable mention: Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia

Thoughtful, robust, and age-appropriate programming plus rad facilities make Triple C tops for K-11 campers. Spread across 35 acres, features include two saline swimming pools, five cabins, a nature-education center, horseback riding, a bouldering wall, a ropes course, and—woo-hoo!—a 500-foot zip line. And if your kids don’t want the fun to end, Triple C now offers activities year-round. • The racing heart of ACAC’s summer camp, which includes sports, weekly field trips and themes, and arts and crafts, is the Adventure Central Waterpark, with Olympic-sized and beach-entry pools, waterslides, and a spray garden.

Mountain-biking park or trail

Walnut Creek Park

Runner-up: Rivanna Trail

Honorable mention: Preddy Creek

The Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club lauds Walnut Creek as a “tight, twisting singletrack with quick climbs and descents.” That’s part of the trail, anyway. Other stretches offer a flat ride along a lake that begs you to dismount and take a plunge. • Offering 20 miles of “urban wilderness,” Rivanna Trail is one of Charlottesville’s great features—accessible, healthy, fun, and a blast of a cycling trail.

Walking/hiking park or trail

Saunders-Monticello Trail

Runner-up: Humpback Rock

Honorable mention: Rivanna Trail

Variety is the spice of hikes (bad pun—live with it!). Winner Saunders-Monticello Trail offers a mellow walk up the mountainside to Monticello, and the wide plank and gravel surfaces make it accessible to families with (sturdy) strollers. • Runner-up Humpback Rock is a much steeper climb that will leave you winded—but impressed by the stunning mountain and farmland views.

Golf course

Spring Creek Golf Club

Runner-up: Farmington Country Club

Honorable mention: Meadowcreek Golf Course

Golf Digest, the world leader in course rankings, places Spring Creek at No. 14 in Virginia, which is pretty rarefied territory, especially since the lush bent-grass layout is one of only six among the commonwealth’s top 15 that’s open to the public. • Farmington Country Club is an extraordinary piece of history. The Farmington estate was patented in 1735, a Thomas Jefferson-designed building was constructed there in 1908, and the golf course, which opened for play on May 15, 1929, is a sporty layout by golden age architect Fred Findlay. It’s private, so you’ll need an invitation (or a membership) to play there.

Personal trainer

Justin Tooley (The Gym)

Runner-up: Vanessa Schnable (Purvelo)

Honorable mention: Ann Dunn (Formula Complete Fitness)

Last year’s runner-up, Justin Tooley, is a burly strongman with an easy laugh and a way of maxing-out his clients that’s so easygoing and cheerful they almost (almost) forget the pain. He has owned and trained clients at The Gym since 2011. • Last year’s winner, Vanessa Schnable, owes her popularity to her versatility. In addition to yoga and cycling training, she does one-on-one sessions focusing on core work and building long, lean muscle-mass.

Yoga instructor

Liz Reynolds (Liz Reynolds Yoga)

Runner-up: Shannon Burns (FlyDog Yoga)

Honorable mention: Eliza Whiteman (FlyDog Yoga)

Liz Reynolds teaches yoga to everyone from brides (through her Zen Bride Yoga project) to ballers (namely, UVA football and soccer players). She’s at the apex of her discipline, with a Yoga Alliance 500-hour training designation, certification in yoga life coaching, and training in Tantra yoga and Ayurveda. • Shannon Burns has also received the top Yoga Alliance designations, and she’s the lead instructor at FlyDog, which is saying something.

Pilates instructor

Robin Truxel (Tru Pilates)

Runner-up: Carla Shifflett (Posture Studio)

Honorable mention: Ellie Tor (Tru Pilates)

Tru Pilates owner Robin Truxel’s personal story—recovery from back and hip injuries using pilates and 13 marathons completed—is inspiring, and her primary focus —helping pregnant women, young mothers, and those with complicated injuries—is laudable. • Carla Shifflett’s professional motivation is also personal: She opened Posture Studio to help people with chronic pain, which is just what pilates did for her.

Fitness-cycle instructor

Justin Goodman (Zoom Indoor Cycling)

Runner-up: Vanessa Schnable (Purvelo)

Honorable mention: Kristin Watson (Purvelo)

Music drives the workouts at Zoom Indoor Cycling—no surprise, since DJing is co-owner Justin Goodman’s other gig. The Charlottesville native gained a musical following while he lived in Washington, D.C., and now he’s drawing fans to his cycling studio in the Barracks Road Shopping Center. • Trainer Vanessa Schnable, our runner-up in the Best Personal Trainer subcategory, needs no introduction. Just do what she tells you, and you’ll be in better shape.

Niche fitness studio

FlyDog Yoga

Runner-up: Orangetheory Fitness

Honorable mention: Zoom Cycle

True fact: Charlottesville has about 30 fitness studios. FlyDog is the best, according to our readers. Sick of working out on that elliptical machine? Get thee to FlyDog for traditional or heated vinyasa classes, barre and cardio exercises, and even aerial yoga, which proves that downward dogs can fly too. • Work out smart, not just hard, at Orangetheory, where personal fitness counseling and the studio’s heart-rate monitors help you get the best results.

General practitioner

Katharine DeGeorge

Runner-up: Annika Abrahamson

Honorable mention: Greg Gelburd

In this photo-finish category, Katharine DeGeorge repeats her 2018 win. • Meanwhile, runner-up Annika Abrahamson noses out Greg Gelburd. Pretty cool, since they finished tied for runner-up last year.


Aaron Stump (Charlottesville Pediatric Dentistry)

Runner-up: John Knight Jr. (John Knight, Jr. DDS & Associates)

Honorable mention: Anita Neel (Aesthetic Dentistry of Charlottesville)

Aaron Stump and his team set the friendly, fun tone with a toy-filled waiting room, and allow parents to introduce their kids to dentistry with a free orientation visit. One mother whose son has autism raved about Stump’s patience: The dentist sat the boy in the treatment chair and simply counted his teeth. That visit, the kid’s second, quieted his fear, and his mom scheduled him for treatment. Stump’s compassion is clear. • Last year’s winner, John Knight, also emphasizes dental education with his patients. We’d all be better off if we had dentists like Stump and Knight when we were young.


David Hamer (Hamer & Hamer Orthodontics)

Runner-up: Bart Weis (Charlottesville Orthodontics)

Honorable mention: Suzanne Dennis

This year, Drs. Hamer and Weis repeat their 2018 selections as winner and runner-up, respectively. Experience (Weis has been at it for two decades) and service (Hamer offers options for payment plans as well as free shuttle service to the Crozet office) push these two to the top. Their expertise is a given.


Anna Magee (Charlottesville Dermatology)

Runner-up: Hannah Pearce (Albemarle Dermatology Associates)

Honorable mention: Bridget Bryer (Family Dermatology of Albemarle)

Anna Magee returns to the winner’s circle this year, the spot she and her practice, Charlottesville Dermatology, held in 2014, 2015, and 2016. She’s closing in on 25 years in business, and recently expanded her services with the addition of Nua The Medical Spa at Charlottesville Dermatology. • Hannah Pearce also boasts more than two decades of experience and now specializes in medical and surgical dermatology for children and adults.


Paige Perriello (Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville)

Runner-up: Robert Trundle (Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville)

Honorable mention: Heather Quillian (Northridge Pediatrics)

A former field hockey and lacrosse player at Princeton University, Paige Perriello specializes in sports medicine and concussion care for young athletes. Her father was a founder of Pediatric Associates, and she sees generations of patients that he served. Caring for kids is in her blood. • Fluent in both Spanish (and his native English, of course), Robert Trundle serves the Latino community and loves his work so much that he’s the volunteer doctor at Camp Holiday Trails.


Scott Wagner (Scott Wagner Chiropractic & Sports Medicine)

Runner-up: Sam Spillman (Balanced Chiropractic & Physical Therapy)

Honorable mention: Douglas Cox (Cox Chiropractic Clinic)

A repeat winner from 2018, Scott Wagner inspires confidence with his deft touch as well as his work as the chiropractor for UVA Athletics. • Sam Spillman, also the runner-up in 2018, is a martial arts practitioner, so he knows about proper movement—and the bodily alignment that promotes it.


Jaime Easton (Spring Creek Eye Care)

Runner-up: Joe DiGirolamo (Primary Eyecare)

Honorable mention: Stephen Record (Drs. Record & Record Optometrists)

Looking good and seeing well blend seamlessly for clients (there are a lot of them, so plan on booking your appointment well in advance) under the care of winner Jaime Easton and runner-up Joe DiGirolamo.

Physical therapist

Heather Walton (Move Better Physical Therapy)

Runner-up: Kim Starr (ACAC)

Honorable mention: Bryan Esherick (Balanced Chiropractic and Physical Therapy)

An avid amateur athlete and outdoors enthusiast—volleyball, hiking, and running—Heather Walton knows that occasional injuries go with the territory, and she zeros in on how to treat them, thanks to her extensive education and experience in physical therapy. Empathy and expertise—a winning combination! • Runner-up Kim Starr also grabs a lot of votes for her specialty in treating sports injuries.

Mental health professional

Erin Bulinski (Prosperity Eating Disorder and Wellness Center)

Runner-up: Amanda Sovik Johnston

Honorable mention: William Fox

The underlying factors of an eating disorder can take a long time to diagnose and treat. Winner Erin Bulinski and her team are all-in to help clients as young as 12 by addressing depression, anxiety, trauma, and self-esteem issues to travel the path to full recovery from anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, and more. • Amanda Sovik Johnston worked with Albemarle County Public Schools students before entering private practice. With bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Ph.D. from UVA, she identifies her expertise as “working with adolescents, women’s issues, special education, and multi-problem families.”

Martial arts school

Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Runner-up: Gracie Charlottesville

Honorable mention: UpLevel Martial Arts

Formal training in self-defense and fighting are the norm in many cultures, particularly those in Eastern nations. Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brings home multiple forms of martial arts, with classes for kids and adults alike. BJJ is the main course, but Krav Maga (notably used by Israeli special forces) and Muy Thai, the national sport of Thailand, round out the menu. All classes are taught in a spacious, spick-and-span gym near downtown. • Three black belts and an NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion share ownership and head up instruction at Gracie Charlottesville, named for the world-renowned BJJ practitioners Helio and Rickson Gracie. Props to the gym for offering free training to law enforcement and discounts for first responders.

Saunders-Monticello trail is accessible to hikers of all abilities.

JoJo McDuffie holds the awesome title Head of Strength at Zoom Performance Training.

A lesson in progress at Charlottesville Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Get your hands dirty and harvest your own food from the Urban Agriculture Collective’s gardens.

The trails at Walnut Creek can be treacherous—or tranquil, like this easygoing lakeside lane.

Posted In:     Best of C-VILLE 2019

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